Rachel Weeks '07 launched her ethical fashion company School House in April 2009 during Reunions Weekend at Duke. Less than a year after Duke Stores became the first retailer to carry her collegiate apparel, Weeks and her fledgling company have made noticeable progress.
School House, which manufactures its products at a factory in Sri Lanka that pays its workers a living wage, sold more than 20,000 units in the fall at fourteen different universities.
Six select School House products will appear soon in forty college bookstores run by retail giant Barnes & Noble, and an ecommerce feature added to her website in February will allow her to sell directly to customers. Despite the growth, Weeks says that staying small is a distinct competitive advantage.
"Most of our competitors in the collegiate market provide standard graphics, standard block lettering," she says. "What we focus on is school-by-school design, and we try to make every school's design process a unique experience."
To start 2010, Weeks moved her business from Greensboro to a newly renovated space in downtown Durham, where she has set up a showroom and headquarters. A month earlier, in December, she hosted a School House fashion show and shopping event in Durham that brought out many of her mentors and supporters.
"It made me feel very proud," Weeks says. "Sometimes it's difficult to enjoy our successes when we're so caught up in daily operations. Seeing so many people who have helped to guide us over the past two years getting to enjoy themselves and see what they've helped create was incredibly satisfying."